Op-ed: Berkeley teachers support Measure D

On behalf of all Berkeley teachers, I ask you to vote yes on Measure D for the health of our children.

Ask any teacher in Berkeley and they will tell you that there is a strong connection between physical health and academics. Indeed, research has shown that when students are healthy, they are much more likely to attend school and be ready to learn; and when students are not healthy, their academics suffer. According to the California School Board’s Association:

  • Inadequate consumption of key food groups deprives children of essential vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins that are necessary for optimal cognitive function.
  • Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with reductions in absenteeism and nurse visits as well as improvements in memory, attention, behaviors and cognitive function.
  • Low protein intake has been associated with lower achievement scores.
  • Adequate water consumption may improve cognitive function in children and adolescents.
  • Increases in participation in healthy school breakfast programs are associated with increases in math and reading test scores, daily attendance, class participation and reductions in tardiness and absenteeism.

Berkeley Unified School District has many programs built on this premise. For instance, the school district was the first district in the country to have a food policy. As a result, the district has removed all soda vending machines from its campuses, and the district’s meals program has eliminated all processed food, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, refined flour, chemicals, dyes, additives and nitrates from children’s school lunches. Instead, the meal program serves regional organic milk at lunch and local and/or organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible.

Measure D, which levies a tax on the distribution of sugary drinks and the syrups that make those drinks, is a vital next step for our community to take. We have all heard the statistics – 1 in 3 children are predicted to get diabetes in their lifetimes unless we do something about it. Berkeley, for all our health efforts, has not escaped this reality. The City’s 2013 Health Status Report found that 40 percent of BUSD 9th graders were overweight.

Measure D would make our community and our children healthier. First, it would reinforce the message that sugary drinks are unhealthy, especially for children, and especially when consumed in large quantities. Second, it is true that the revenue from the tax goes into the city’s general fund. However, a panel of health and education experts would make recommendations on how to use those city funds to support nutrition education, such as the district’s cooking and gardening program. Berkeley teachers believe in this panel and believe that Measure D will allow the district to renew its support for cooking and gardening.

It is not just Berkeley teachers who support Measure D. We are joined by the Berkeley NAACP, Latinos Unidos de Berkeley, the League of Women Voters, the California Nurses Association, and many, many more.

To support the achievement of Berkeley’s students, please bring your neighbors to the polls on Nov. 4 to vote Yes on Measure D.

We could also use your help canvassing and phone banking to reach as many voters as possible. To help out please email volunteer@berkeleyvsbigsoda.com or stop by the campaign office at 2225 Shattuck Avenue.

A Yes vote for Measure D is a vote for all Berkeley students!

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Cathy Campbell is the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.